Feb 072015

As a frequent participant in the Legacy Family Tree Webinars, I was very excited when the topic of “One-Place Studies” was presented by Kirsty Gray. I was familiar with the idea of a one-name study, but had never really thought of applying that type of focus to a place or community. Kirsty’s program demonstrated just how this type of study can be done, what the benefits could be, and ways it can enhance your genealogica research.

Many genealogists are familiar with Elizabeth Shown Mills’ “FAN principle”, the concept of researching the Friends, Associates and Neighbors of our ancestors. I see the one-place study as being a kind of FAN club on a larger scale. Or perhaps, instead of researching ancestors, you are interested in a particular place and want to trace the “genealogy” of that location, examining the evolution of a place by studying who moved in, who moved out, who conducted what business, who the leaders were, and so on.

Kirsty’s presentation was outstanding, giving the audience many links to helpful websites that aid this type of study. Additionally, various methods were demonstrated to show how she organizes her findings, the types of records she recommends including, and questions to ask yourself before you even begin. I was particularly intrigued when Kirsty described how this type of study can help break through research barriers and potentially answer questions about our ancestors because it considers the people and their families within their physical and social context in addition to their vital statistics. The one-place study includes research beyond family relationships and into diverse areas such as geography, history and migration patterns, plus, it can be applied to any location across the globe.

Kirsty discussed the Society for One-Place Studies during the webinar, a group that I had never heard of. In fact, a flood of webinar attendees visiting the site overloaded the society’s server for a few minutes during her presentation. Despite the traffic, I joined the society (before the webinar was even over!) for several reasons. First of all, this is a topic that I’m very interested in, and although I don’t currently have a particular place in mind, I now have many ideas for places I’d like to carry out a study like this. Second, I was excited to be able to interact with like-minded researchers who conduct similar studies; it is through collaboration and cooperation that learning and growth take place.

Finally, I personally would like to see this spread across the globe as more and more people conduct similar studies. I am a big proponent of “giving back” to the genealogical community through various acts of service. I live in the United States (currently Texas) but my ancestral research is conducted in other states, as well as other countries including England and Germany. Unless I win the lottery or an “undiscovered” rich uncle leaves me his fortune, I’m probably not going to be able to afford to travel for extensive research in those far-away locations. But I can conduct a one-place study near my home and hope that someone will in turn conduct a study in a place that will benefit my research. Take a minute to imagine what would be possible if we all did this.

A recording of Kirsty’s presentation is available for free until February 11, 2015 at Legacy Family Tree Webinars. After the 11th, it will only be viewable by subscribers to the website.

Cari Taplin
Texas, USA

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